A great deal of misconceptions exists about night driving, and “night driving eyewear” is actually a highly sought-after product. But there are some significant considerations when searching for them, and there really is no catch-all sort of solution. Before trying night vision eyewear for driving, be sure to employ the tips provided in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1 as well as additional tips provided by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Lens Color and Night Vision
There are two main reasons people generally look for night driving glasses. First, to enhance contrast and depth perception in dim light. Second, to reduce glare from oncoming headlights. Let’s look at each of these reasons in turn and try to determine if lens color can provide any solutions to nighttime driving vision problems.
Enhancing Contrast and Depth Perception
This goal can only be achieved during the 2+ hour duration before and during dusk or at other times that are dim without being dark. A yellow/amber lens can brighten surroundings using the small amount of light available. But the key is that these lenses require the presence of some light as benefits are lost when darkness fully descends. Once it is fully dark, not much can help improve visibility.
But even with the possibility of a yellow/amber lens improving visibility in some conditions, the use of tint of any sort once dusk hits is controversial. In fact, eye experts at Laramy-K Optical strongly discourage the use of yellow lenses for night driving and even driving at dusk because “ANY tint further reduces the amount of light transmitted to the eye.” They quote Dr. Merrill J. Allen from the Forensic Aspects of Vision and Highway Safety who says that yellow lenses can “actually impair visual performances and retard glare recovery.”
Reducing Glare from Oncoming Headlights
This goal is achieved using almost anything other than clear. However, this need usually applies in the dark when headlights appear even brighter by contrast. This type of glare is different than that generated by the sun. Thus, a polarized lens, which is by far the best for reducing sun glare, will not have the same benefit against headlights. To reduce headlight glare, a dark mirror lens would likely be most effective. Unfortunately, this type of lens is neither practical nor advisable in the dark. Arguably, the best alternative then is an indoor/outdoor lens that has a light mirror coating over a clear lens. However, even this type of lens only allows 50-60% light transmission, so it will darken not just the view of the lights but your total surroundings as well. Obviously, this presents a danger with the already dark conditions of nighttime.
So what’s the best choice?
Drivers must understand what they are trying to achieve and how important that goal is to them. They must also realize the trade-off for trying to reduce headlight glare. Experts at Safety Glasses USA advise customers to “please choose wisely,” and to cease using any lens if it impairs vision. Customers must realize that there is no perfect or even ideal type of night driving glasses because there are too many variables such as one’s sensitivity to light, one’s natural ability to see in the dark, the varying environmental light conditions and driver objective.
The bottom line remains that having perfect vision for driving at dawn, dusk or nighttime simply isn’t possible. The first approach should be to remove any obstacles to clear vision, such as those suggested in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1. Should you choose to experiment with night driving glasses or even with various lens tints, know clearly that eye experts warn against this as a safe option.